Roots of Failure in Inner-City Education
The problems commonly associated with inner-city schools were not nearly as pervasive a century ago, when black children in most northern cities attended school alongside white children. In Schools Betrayed, her innovative history of race and urban education, Kathryn M. Neckerman tells the story of how and why these schools came to serve black children so much worse than their white counterparts.
Focusing on Chicago public schools between 1900 and 1960, Neckerman compares the circumstances of blacks and white immigrants, groups that had similarly little wealth and status yet came to gain vastly different benefits from their education. Their divergent educational outcomes, she contends, stemmed from Chicago officials’ decision to deal with rising African American migration by segregating schools and denying black students equal resources. And it deepened, she shows, because of techniques for managing academic failure that only reinforced inequality. Ultimately, these tactics eroded the legitimacy of the schools in Chicago’s black community, leaving educators unable to help their most disadvantaged students.
Schools Betrayed will be required reading for anyone who cares about urban education.
“Kathryn Neckerman’s Schools Betrayed is one of those rare books that will become a standard reference not only for social scientists, historians, and school officials, but for educated lay readers as well. Through careful historical documentation of race and urban education in Chicago, Neckerman brilliantly uncovers the roots of antagonism, alienation, and disorder in inner-city classrooms. No previous study has provided a more definitive analysis of why so many black youngsters and their parents have lost faith in the public schools.”
“This is an excellent book that could not be more timely or significant. Kathryn Neckerman sets out to explain why urban schools serve African American children so poorly. Her interpretation is bold. Schools Betrayed will force a reconsideration of the historiography of education, and will command immediate attention as one of the most important books ever written on the topic.”
“Neckerman’s powerful analysis challenged my thinking about the root causes of educational inequality. She overturns traditional explanations about economic decline, labor markets, and oppositional culture to show how school policies increasingly distanced blacks and white immigrants from 1930 to 1960. Neckerman is one of the few scholars who directly links higher-level policy decisions to everyday teacher-student classroom dynamics. It’s an important story about much more than one city’s school system.”